Homepolish designer Jesse Turek walks us through the process of renovating and decorating a sprawling, classic Tudor home in Montclair, New Jersey.
Photos by Sean Litchfield.
When Homepolish designer first met his clients and their traditional Tudor home, he knew the project would make Homepolish history.
Located in New Jersey’s idyllic Montclair township and boasting just over 20 rooms (including two kitchens and the roomiest walk-in closet we’ve ever laid eyes on), Jesse knew had a substantial amount of designing ahead.
After living in the stately home for three years, the couple, Paul and Elizabeth, were ready for a change. Jesse immediately understood what they were looking for—a home that honors to its historic heritage, but with a modern spin befitting of their family.
“I wanted to keep its traditional look, but knew that I had to design it in a way that was updated and somewhat contemporary,” Jesse explains. “The family is not afraid of color, so we incorporated tons of shades, as well as some whimsical artwork and wallpapers. I wanted the overall vibe to be family-friendly, cozy, and timeless.”
Pedigreed details like hefty marble fireplaces and original cognac millwork are integral parts of the home’s story but were primed for a lift. To accommodate the busy family’s lifestyle, Jesse aimed to make the framework practical and multifunctional without stripping away any original character. Smart fixes like replacing an original fireplace with custom storage, converting one bedroom into a walk-in closet for the master suite, and tearing down walls to make the bedrooms a little roomier, gave the family a space more representative of today’s lifestyle.
Renovations are never completely smooth, but one icy hiccup turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
“The dining room flooded one winter and the room was basically a frozen waterfall, so the entire space had to be gutted,” Jesse recalls.
The designer saw the recently-demolished room as an opportunity to add an elegant entertaining space to the mix. With classic wallpaper, regal shades of powdery blue, and potted greenery galore, Jesse gave the room a sense of charm from worthy of the high-society era.
Throughout the space, Jesse worked to revitalize the home’s traditional roots—installing new marble for several fireplaces, refinishing original floors, and restoring a sizable amount of the home’s woodwork and windows.
Thankfully, it wasn’t all heavy reno. In the kitchen and butler’s pantry, only cosmetic touch-ups were necessary. A fresh coat of pearly white paint (Farrow & Ball’s All White) added a soft contrast to glossy new brass hardware and black countertops. The result feels welcoming and wantable—with a touch of vintage elegance.
The Tudor home stays true to its decorative style with steeply pitched roofs, but those stunning slopes make for a design challenge.
“The slanted roofs and the unusual floor plans of the guest rooms on the third floor were an issue,” says the designer. “It was tricky to find the correct size of rugs to fit in the odd niches in the rooms, and the slanted walls were difficult with situating beds and artwork.”
To solve the various height differences, Jesse balanced scale-appropriate pieces with bursts of cheerful color like buttery yellow and cheeky hot pink, enlivening a space that could feel cramped in less-skilled hands.
With a much more straightforward (boxy!) layout, Jesse was able to let loose in one of the home’s bathrooms.
“I wanted the bathroom to look classic but with a flare, so we decided to make custom wood wall panels and paint the entire room the same shade of blue,” Jesse shares. “I love how it looks so clean and modern even though it contains such traditional lines and architecture. The monochromatic effect just looks much more modern because this shade of blue allows the white porcelain fixtures (like the clawfoot tub and pedestal sink) in the bathroom to really pop.”
Jesse held nothing back when it came to decor. He mixed and matched antique accents with modern shapes and silhouettes to ensure the decor embodied the client’s desired contemporary-meets-classic look. By incorporating a wide swath of patterns, prints, textures, and colors, the designer created a sea of visual depth in which each and every aspect of a space is captivating.
While the demolitions and subsequent renovations were planned far in advance, Jesse had a much more on-the-fly approach to furniture and decor.
“The client always laughed at me because I would do a lot of vintage and antique shopping for the project, constantly texting her images of pieces while I was out and about,” remembers Jesse. “Even if she was at functions or parties, she would sneak off and virtually shop with me. She loved doing this. This process happened so spontaneously and quickly that at times it could feel overwhelming, but she was also very excited because she loved the one-of-a-kind pieces I could find.”
Jesse’s decisive nature was in full swing with the master suite. A full gut renovation in the master bath and the conversion of a bedroom into a closet paid off—letting Jesse style the spaces to his heart’s content.
“I knew exactly how I wanted the bathroom to look, and I knew which products to use right away,” Jesse says. “I designed the bathroom vanities to match the original fireplace mantle design from the bedroom. The closet is very straightforward as well. It’s clean and functional with marble countertops, custom jewelry drawers, and laundry hampers built into the island.”
Even then, the designer had to make sure he accommodated the family’s distinctly—lofty—needs.
“The entire family is very tall, so I had to design the closet to accommodate their height!” he remembers.
In the children’s rooms, traditional motifs like florals and stripes are injected with a sense of whimsy through unexpected pops of color. In the daughter’s room, layers of rose and hot pink create a happy, youthful space.
“We hit a small speed bump while decorating the girl’s room because the client fell in love with the floral wallpaper, but I felt it might be too sophisticated,” Jesse says. “I ran with the whole sophisticated look, and toned down the room with some more fun and playful pieces.”
Balance was integral when creating rooms that mirrored both the home’s pedigree and the kids’ playful personalities.
“One of my mottos is ‘layer and balance,’” the designer shares. “It’s so important to incorporate a variety of materials in the décor. This will add interest, warmth, and texture.”
“The boy’s bedrooms were easy. I just chose some boyish pieces, but nothing that feels too young,” Jesse tells us. “Whenever I design a kid’s room, I don’t like to make it too fussy or too youthful. Kids grow up quickly, so I design the spaces as rooms that they can grow into. When they are teenagers they can tweak some things here and there, but still keep the bones of the design intact.”
When asked what the most challenging moment of designing this space was, Jesse did something out-of-character—he drew a blank.
“There weren’t really any challenging moments,” Jesse says. “This was a dream job with a dream client!”